Politico was chief of staff to then-Prime Minister Mulroney

Derek Burney has been tapped chairman of the board at Winnipeg-based CanWest Global Communications.

The longtime politico was chief of staff to then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney from 1987-89 and Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1989-93. He has strong connections in the Bush administration and is in the inner circle of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Burney’s appointment completes a gradual political crossing of the floor for CanWest Global, whose founder and chairman until his death in 2003, Izzy Asper, was an outspoken Liberal, former Member of Provincial Parliament and leader of Manitoba’s provincial Liberal party.

Asper scion Leonard, prexy-CEO of the media company, may not share his father’s political leanings, but he has taken up his crusade for the relaxation of foreign ownership restrictions in Canadian media companies. Ottawa is considering relaxing ownership restriction of telcos, and if that comes to pass, CanWest is certain to step up its campaign.

Burney has been a member of the CanWest board since April.

He takes over from interim chair David Drybrough, who remains on the board and will continue as chair of CanWest’s audit committee.

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